Lao military plane with defense chief crashes

THANYARAT DOKSONE
Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — A Laos air force plane carrying about 20 people including the country’s defense minister and other senior officials crashed on Saturday, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said.

There was no immediate word on casualties, said the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sek Wannamethee.

The plane took off from the capital, Vientiane, early Saturday morning and crashed in the northeastern province of Xiangkhoung, about 470 kilometers (290 miles) away.

The aircraft was carrying Lao Defense Minister Douangchay Phichit, who is also a deputy prime minister, and several other high-ranking officials, including the governor of Vientiane. They were heading to an official ceremony for the Ministry of Defense, said Sek, who was informed of the crash by authorities in neighboring Laos.

He did not immediately have any other details, and there was no official statement on the crash from authorities in Laos, which is ruled by a secretive Communist Party.

In October, a Lao Airlines ATR-72 turboprop crashed during a heavy storm as it approached Pakse Airport in southern Laos, killing all 49 people on board.

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